Tuesday, March 19, 2013
A Chris Toll Celebration
(Above - Chris Mason with list of poets he wrangled at the Chris Toll fest)
One brisk chilly September night we stood together in the parking lot behind Dunkin' Donuts as he played me the two available songs from Dylan's upcoming "Tempest" album on his iPhone and a little over a week later the great poet and my old friend Chris Toll was dead. Here is his obituary:
Chris' memorial at Ruck's Funeral Home was packed to capacity with loving friends and family in shock. It felt cathartic to be among the huge community of Chris' friends and riding on this energy Beefalo Bob Friedman got the idea to have a night of poets reading Toll words and musicians playing songs by chris' muse, bob Dylan. Above is a picture of Mr. Beefalo, who started the evening with a fine rendition of Mississippi".
Here is a link to Baltimore Fishbowl's write-up of the memorial service for Chris:
Chris' activity in the poetry world spanned from the '70s through the first decade of the 21st Century and he was well loved, so the night filled and stretched on with people wanting to pay his generous spirit homage. I was happy to be in on it and got to do double duty, singing with Don Peyton's Tear Stained Bibles (above), which included my nephew Geff on fiddle and mandolin (below).
Above is the whole Tear Stained bunch.
One of the readers was Kate Pipken (below), who co-edited Open 24 Hours with Chris. This journal was the first to publish me as a young Colt 45 besotted lad before I moved to Baltimore, so I have particularly strong warm feelings for it.
One of Chris' most recent publishers, Adam Robinson, who made Chris a movie star with The Disinformation Phase on Publishing Genius Press did a duet reading with Lauren Bender. One of Chris' earliest publishers, Tom DiVenti, whose press put out Blue Confessions was present in the form of T.T. Tucker his country punk persona (below).
Coming along about three hours into the night was Alix Tobey Southwick doing a beautiful, soothing rendition of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" that overcame the shaky sound system with its passion. Alix, below, painted Chris as The King of Hell and Pope Croke as Pan in the ladies' room of The Club Charles long ago and these two friends and Baltimore icons left the Earth within months of each other.
And in this cruel winter that demanded so many souls from us, even as we joined together to sing and chant in Chris' spirit a month or so after many of us did the same for Pope, there was a fresh sorrow of the death of Half Japanese and Spidercakes drummer/force of nature Ricky Dreyfus. And now when I've finally gotten around to writing this post Blaster Al Ackerman who is in my upper pantheon of folks who made my life an adventure worth living passed away in Austin from complications of a brain tumor.
All these departing giants are going to take a long time to digest and life will certainly never be the same, but there is the consolation and inspiration of the next generation of hepped up weirdos (Soft Serv God's Littlest Homie and Fletcher Smith Unlicensed Phrenologist below) and already the ones lined up after them like Lyra Marlowe, gypsy daughter of the Mainz Caravan. The Toll and Pope and Dreyfus and Blaster particles will live on and influence and inflame in many ways and forms. I will think of them and bow my unraveling head in all moments when life becomes so clear and raw that the membrane between Here and Other begins to split and when I am in the frothy embrace of the ocean reveling in the glory and fragility of existence.